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Friends praise Liberal MP O'Regan for going public with drinking problem

Seamus O'Regan used his Twitter account Sunday to announce his entry into a wellness program.

Paul Daly/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Friends of Seamus O'Regan, the Newfoundland politician and former television host, are praising his decision to go public with his efforts to end a drinking problem, saying his candour could help others fighting the same addiction.

Heidi Bonnell, an executive with Rogers Communications Inc. who worked with Mr. O'Regan in the 1990s in the office of former Newfoundland premier Brian Tobin, said in a telephone interview on Monday that her friend has always conducted himself in a forthright manner.

"I think the greater good has always been in the window for him," Ms. Bonnell said. "To go public with your own story takes huge courage, and especially with the razor lens that is focused on you as a member of Parliament, the expectations are high."

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There was no catastrophic incident that prompted the MP to give up alcohol, she added.

The 44-year-old former co-host of CTV's Canada AM, who was elected MP for St. John's South-Mount Pearl in October when Justin Trudeau's Liberals swept the Atlantic provinces, used his Twitter account Sunday to announce his entry into a wellness program.

"I've decided after consultation with family that I can be most effective as a Member of Parliament by adopting an alcohol-free lifestyle," he wrote. Mr. O'Regan said he would be returning to Ottawa in late January, when Parliament resumes sitting following an extended Christmas break.

Mr. Trudeau said via Twitter that Mr. O'Regan has his full support.

Ms. Bonnell pointed out that Mr. O'Regan was an ambassador for the Bell Let's Talk campaign, which was created to bring mental illness out of the shadows. He spoke publicly about falling into depression when he was between jobs in recent years, and then seeking help from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

Beverly Thomson, who was Mr. O'Regan's co-host at Canada AM, said she had not talked to him since he announced that he was entering the wellness program. But, she said, his disclosure took incredible strength.

"That is Seamus, and that is the person that I knew," Ms. Thomson said. "It's a tough road to change your life."

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Catherine Paradis, senior research and policy analyst at the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, said giving up alcohol is challenging because drinking plays such a large part in Canadian culture.

"We use alcohol as a boundary mark between the week and the weekend, between work and leisure," Dr. Paradis said. "And of course there are many, many social occasions where, to mark the fact that these occasions are special, we will be offered a drink."

Ms. Bonnell said the level of support extended to Mr. O'Regan by his colleagues, including the Prime Minister, over the past two days has been "overwhelming, it's incredible, and I think they care for Seamus personally, but they, too, see the greater responsibility to remove the stigma."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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